FWIS: writing time

FWIS (from where i stand) is a monthly feature i’m doing with jessica corra and bria quinlan. all three of us are YA writers in different places in our journeys. (check out their links for this month’s FWIS from their points of view.)

today’s topic: writing time

my writing time of late has felt a bit like that picture — scattered and spread out.

i started off WIP #3 with a bang. i got through 21K in about 4 weeks, which while not much, is some sort of record for me. but then i left tire marks on the asphalt as the brakes kicked in. i haven’t written anything in about 3 weeks. i’m not sure why those brakes were applied or how to undo them.

i’ve continued to do some RESEARCH:

i’ve read a bunch of books in a variety of  genres (ENDER’S GAME, THE WITNESS, THE GURNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY, A NEED SO BEAUTIFUL, UNDER THE NEVER SKY, and IN A FIX, to name a few) in hopes of igniting my brain.

i’ve FLESHED OUT some of the other characters in my WIP. my PLOT outline is skeletal, but in working order. i’ve napped. i’ve eaten. i’ve exercised. i’ve watched DOWNTON ABBEY and just started SHERLOCK (love it!). i’ve talked on the phone. i’ve emailed. i’ve performed a complicated series of sacrifices (aka spring cleaning + putting my room AC unit in the window) all in the hopes of paving a path back to creativity.

all the gears are lined up. all that’s left to do is for me to put my butt in the chair and write — and yet — it keeps feeling like this:

today i found lots of beautiful skies that i wanted to collect but couldn’t.

i don’t know if it’s because i don’t have any real deadlines or if it’s because i’m waiting for a sign before i begin again. i do know that i have no idea what size or shape or color that sign will be. i’m also not sure what that sign will say, but hopefully it’ll be something along the lines of, “it’s time to start writing again, your highness” instead of something more like a slap across the face.

though that would certainly get my attention.

how do you use your writing time? is it productive? creative? full of you staring out the window? what do you do to get the momentum going again? how do you deal with a lack of deadlines? have you ever been slapped? (if yes, how come?!?!)

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reading style

earlier this week, i received an email from a coworker’s brother.

said coworker has been out of the country visiting that brother and i’ll admit it, my heart stopped when i realized who the email was from. i was so nervous to read the letter (because it could only contain bad news, right? why else was he contacting me?), i processed only about every fourth word of the email. i was skipping and searching and looking for the bad news.

it took about three read-throughs until i understood the gist of the email, which was that there was plane trouble in amsterdam and coworker would not be back to work thursday, but rather friday.


but the way i read that email got me thinking, because i’m normally a very through reader. i don’t often skim, as i like to savor the words and the worlds and the characters and the stories i’m reading. even work emails. i don’t want to miss anything important.

that said, i did find myself skimming through a series recently. a very popular series that i never should have read and never would have read if it wasn’t to satisfy my curiosity as to why EVERYONE was reading it. the writing was bad, the characters flat, and the situations disturbing (to me at least), but the first book ends on a cliffhanger and i’d made it that far i had to know what happened next, so i read the second one, and hell, i’d read that far, i might as well finish the dang series.

it wasn’t worth much more than a quick read through because a lot of what goes on is repetitive and if you breeze through, you won’t miss anything, which only reinforced my decision to read without paying much attention. i don’t like that i did it because everything i read (good, bad, mediocre) is a learning tool and i fear i raced too fast through that lesson.

(don’t make me go back through it again! nooooooooo!)

have you found yourself skimming through anything lately or do you take your time when reading? or perhaps you’re a constant skimmer and so you re-read things in order to make sure you digest them properly? why do you skim? or if you’re on the other side, why do you rarely skim? do you like skim milk? how about skim boarding? how many other ways can i use the word skim?

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“it’s just a sketch. that’s what it’s all about.”

i had just sat down outside. a man was sitting one table away. his gray hair was covered by a hat only a foreigner or an artist could pull off. he was both. he was speaking to a woman at another table, but who was leaning so far over in her chair, they were practically at the same table. two different generations. two different nationalities. two different genders. both interested in art.

and then there was me.

i was intrigued by this unusual pairing, but i wasn’t there to eavesdrop. besides, his original words gave me plenty to think about because here he was an artist and there i was a writer, but his words applied to us both. in any creative endeavor, or really, any type of endeavor, it’s all about the sketch, the first draft, the practice.

the beginning is the time to take chances, to try out new writing instruments (pens/pencils/oils/keyboards/word/scrivener) and structures and characters and words and make a mess and generally flail around. it’s when mistakes are allowed and confusion is abound and you’re doodling in the margins.

the sketch is the backbone of the final picture and is what it’s all about because you can’t have a finished product if you haven’t even started it.

his words were also directly applicable to my newest character, who’s a bit of an artist herself. sketches, in particular, are very important to her and i still can’t quite believe the perfection of that moment. me sitting, him speaking. it’s like i was in a movie where the thing i needed to hear was the exact thing that was said to me (or in my case, near me).

even though it’s nothing i haven’t heard before, his words were peppered with humility and honesty and were softly tinged with an accent not from nearby which made me feel like i was hearing this combination of words for the first time.

sometimes the best advice is something you already knew.

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FWIS: literary heroes

FWIS (from where i stand) is a monthly feature i’m doing with jessica corra and bria quinlan. all three of us are YA writers in different places in our journeys. (check out their links for this month’s FWIS from their points of view.)

today’s topic: literary heroes

it turns out, i’ve already written a post about my writerly heroes. that post means a lot to me and i stand by every word i wrote, but i originally wrote it in november of 2011 and since then, i have two more additions to the list.

THE GRACELING by kristin cashore. the world building and character development and plot twists are so intense and real and fantastical and it makes you want to dive into the story (or at least i did). the third book in this “series,” BITTERBLUE came out yesterday and i went to see her speak last night. her story about how she writes her stories (by hand!) and how she plots first and hears the voices second, well, it was encouraging. i could see a little bit of me in her.

and then i said exactly what i wanted to say at the exact moment i had her attention (while she was signing my book) and that in and of itself was a minor miracle because (a) see the title of this blog and (b) i get very tongue tied in the presence of celebrities. i was able to tell her thanks for her words — both written and spoken — and that they’d meant the world to me.

spot on advice, wouldn't you say?

and the final addition is: laurie schnebly. i wrote about her last month and i feel the need to mention her again. her class and her wisdom and her energy wormed its way through the interwebs and into my brain and lo and behold, i’m now 6K into my new WIP, but more importantly, i’m having FUN.

those are some of my heroes (well, in the writerly world). now it’s your turn. how about YOU tell ME some of your writerly heroes? or everyday heroes? or favorite superheroes?

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FWIS: freedom

FWIS (from where i stand) is a monthly feature i’m doing with jessica corra and bria quinlan. all three of us are YA writers in different places in our journeys. (check out their links for this month’s FWIS from their points of view.)


(sorry, i can’t see, hear, or read that word and not picture the end of BRAVEHEART.)

so what does freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeom have to do with writing? well, as proposed by jessica, she wanted to know “what’s bugging you lately? what’s on your mind? what do you REALLY WANT TO TELL EVERYONE?”

what i want, what i really really want to tell people is how excited i am about this class i just took. it was an online class (recommended to me by bria) called plotting via motivation. the teachings of the class made so much sense to my brain + the teacher of the class was wonderfully supportive and funny and generous with her time and advice.

the reason i’m so jazzed up about the class (which ended on friday 3/30) is because over the course of a month (the length of the class), i wrote an entire plot for a book. the plot may be skeletal, but the bare bones are all i need. i’m not sure if i’m even going to write this book, because after all, i picked the idea on a whim. it was just one i used to practice. i had to start with a new idea so that i’d learn the proper way to plot from conception to ending. i’ve saved all of the lectures and homework and worksheets and you bet i’ll be referring to them over and over again and again.

i had begun to feel overwhelmed and confused by the act of writing, by the act of what i wanted to write, and so i had stepped away from my own words to spend some time reading those of others. i realize now that was my own brand of procrastination, but this class has snapped me back into shape!

it’s good to be back.

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